As the weather heats up and the days get longer, most of us start dreaming of getting away for a nice, relaxing vacation with our loved ones. We know many of our Philly Unleashed clients love including their dogs in as much of our activities as possible – including vacation! Here are some tips and tricks for planning a great vacation with your dog.
Know Your Dog
Does your dog love meeting new people and animals? Is his idea of an ideal day filled with trail walks, time with his humans, and a snuggle on his favorite chair? Does he take a while to settle down in new environments? It’s important for us to know the dog we have, and know what makes them tick, so we can plan the most enjoyable and successful trip for everyone. Before planning a big trip, pay close attention to how your dog communicates with you in a variety of situations at home – when you’re out on a walk and people approach to pet your dog, do we see loose, wiggly body language and a dog that seems happy and relaxed to meet new people? Or does your dog shy away, move away from new people, or otherwise seem uncomfortable or not too confident in this situation? Do they get a little squirrelly or overexcited in new places or situations? Do they enjoy long car rides or do they act like it’s some special form of torture? Keep note of things that might be a little difficult for your dog in case you run into them while planning your trip.
Where to go?
Our little family has done a number of dog-friendly trips. We tend to enjoy trips to locations with good breweries and dog-friendly hotels. What activities does your family enjoy? What do you want to do on vacation, and what will your dog do while you’re enjoying those things? Some of our favorite trips have been to the Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware and Gateway Inn and Suites in Cooperstown, NY (and Dogfish Head and Ommegang breweries, respectively).
Before deciding to bring the dog, we had to consider a few things: how would we get there, what would our schedule be while we’re there, and how we thought the dog would do. For example, the Dogfish Inn has a nice little fire pit that people hang out at, drink and exchange beers, and meet other Inn-goers. For our people-loving labradoodle, it was an excellent opportunity to meet new people, get some snacks, and pretend he didn’t even know us. He was perfectly content hanging out in a social setting, meaning he got some time to be outside at the hotel enjoying vacation. There was a dog-friendly beach with off-leash dogs and people fishing nearby, and he loved swimming with the kids, meeting dog friends, and frolicking in the waves. He did enough adventuring and socializing during the trip that he was okay hanging quietly in the hotel room while we went for brewery tours or out to dinner.
Our stranger-danger Border Collie mix would hate that situation, be pretty unpleasant hanging out near a fire pit with a bunch of new people, and would bark like crazy at the too-friendly dogs at the beach. That same trip would be very stressful for him, and consequently, for us. However, he loved our trip to Cooperstown which involved morning hikes in state parks, a hotel room in a quiet, secluded building, and a home-like setup in the suite we stayed in. He’s also much better in the car, and we can drive pretty far distances without additional stops for the dog. For a dog who hates the car, you might need to plan a lot more travel time so there are opportunities to get out and take a “car break”. This is where knowing your dog is key for everyone.
What’s on the agenda?
What’s your idea of a great vacation? Do you like to have every minute planned so you can see as much of your destination as possible? Is the hotel room just a place to crash at the end of a busy day? Or do you like some time relaxing at “home”, taking leisurely strolls, and long naps in the middle of the day? If you’re out all day, what will your dog be doing? Many hotels require dogs be crated if you’re not in the room with them. If you’re out all day, that’s a long “crate day” for your dog. Even if they’re not crated, they might get a little bored or lonely in a new place while you’re gone for long stretches of the day. If that’s the case, maybe they’d be happier taking a vacation of their own. That’s why Philly Unleashed has Farm Camp! You can enjoy your dream vacation while your dog enjoys theirs. But if your agenda has plenty of free time to hang with your dog, or lots of dog-friendly activities, bring them along!
What should your dog know?
Okay, we’ve found a place that will be fun for the whole family, planned an itinerary that works for the 2 and 4 legged travelers alike, and we’re getting ready to pack our bags and go. What are some helpful things for your dog to know before heading out? Check with your hotel on policies regarding dogs being left alone in rooms. If they require the dog is crated, make sure your dog is comfortable being crated and won’t make too much noise in there. If you’re planning on being at some dog-friendly bars or restaurants on your trip, a strong “go to your place” and “stay” command will be useful in keeping your dog out of the way. Having some fun party tricks in their repertoire is fun for meeting new people. Some hotels will have rules against animals on the furniture. If your dog is usually snuggled up in bed with you or curled up on the couch, make sure they know that sometimes it’s not okay and they need to stay on the floor.
Pack your bags!
Make sure as you pack your dog up, you bring plenty of toys, special chewies to keep them occupied, maybe a blanket or bedding for a crate, their own crate, and some treats! If you’ve had success with puzzle toys or Kongs, bring them along as well. Your dog will appreciate having some creature comforts from home, and you’ll appreciate having some things you know work well for your dog.
Although there are a lot of things to consider when planning a successful family vacation with your four-legged friend, it can be very rewarding to make memories with them. Ask your trainer if you have any questions about bringing your dog with you on your trip or planning a trip to Farm Camp! Safe travels!